PSP Review: Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max

Lost in the luster of Street Fighter III, Street Fighter Alpha 3 is severely under appreciated. The amount of moves, gameplay tweaks, tremendous roster, and presentation are arguably the best in the franchise. It shines on every system it's released for, unless that system isn't capable of handling the controls.

Like Darkstalkers, this PSP port is butchered by the consoles limitations. Anything other than charge moves and the occasional quarter-circle fireball motion are useless. The analog stick can now be used, though its effectiveness isn't good enough to avoid questions either. Finally, the third attempt at making this game work are the easy controls, which only require one direction, and the appropriate button to perform the move. There are two problems here: it takes away a lot of the skill, and it's easy to pull off moves you didn't want.

If it weren't for that critical issue, this would be the best version of this game available. It's nice to know a wider audience can experience this intact on something other than the Dreamcast and get extras too. Four characters are new to the game, their sprites taken from Capcom vs. SNK 2 and Capcom Fighting Evolution. Eagle, Maki, Ingrid, and Yun join the game, all significant additions. Their styles blend perfectly with the already massive roster.

This port is otherwise completely intact, with new modes (100 Kumite, Reversed Dramatic Battle, and a character swapping mode called Variable Battle). The World Tour is here, where the player selects a fighter and builds them up RPG style. It's this games strongest style of play for solo players.

Sadly, solo will be the way most people will be experiencing this. There is no Infrastructure online play, only local Ad Hoc. The amount of extras doesn't make this a worthwhile experience for single players either since one trip through the arcade mode with Evil Ryu unlocks everything. New modes of play are fun, but it's unforgivable to not have any extras or online battles.

Still, the solid gameplay is enough to make this a purchase. The three "-isms" (or fighting styles) radically alter the characters and the way they're used, effectively tripling the roster. This is definitely a game that has taken a slightly wilder turn, with air blocks, counters, and air projectiles. It's more controlled than Marvel vs. Capcom, but when compared to the first two games in the Alpha series, it's an obvious departure.

Fans don't need to be told all of that however. They're well aware of what they are getting into. The PSP extras are miniscule and offer nothing in the way of extra content once conquered. The screen stretch into widescreen is handled smoothly. Finally, it's one of the best fighting games ever made on a system not made to handle fighting games. It's a judgment call as to whether or not this is worth $40.

(*** out of *****)

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